World Air Cargo Forecast 2020–2039

We publish the biennial World Air Cargo Forecast (WACF) to share our comprehensive analysis of the air cargo industry. The forecast provides insight on global air trade markets and industry trends, as well as a detailed forecast of future market growth and the world freighter airplane fleet.

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COVID-19 Reducing Near-Term Air Cargo Capacity, Accelerating Express Demand

Unprecedented COVID-19 passenger market impacts have also disrupted air cargo in 2020. Through September, global air cargo capacity was down by almost one quarter because of passenger widebody network reductions. As a result, air cargo traffic volumes were down 12%, rivaling declines in past recessions. However, yields were up more than 40% and overall air cargo industry revenues were over 15% higher.

Performance has varied widely by carrier. Many airlines with dedicated freighter fleets — especially express and charter carriers — have seen volume and revenue increases. Accelerated e-commerce adoption because of COVID-19 looks likely to extend express market growth trends. International express markets have outpaced the overall market, averaging 17% annual growth over the last five years.

Near-term freighter demand boosted by loff of widebody passenger lower-hold capacity

Freighters Continue to Carry Over Half of All Air Cargo Traffic

One key observation from the COVID-19 crisis has been the importance of main deck freighters in airplane fleets and the global air transportation system. While increasingly capable passenger widebody airplanes have helped the air cargo industry grow over the last decade, dedicated freighters are expected to continue carrying over half of global air cargo traffic for multiple reasons.

Freighters will remain the backbone of the world air cargo industry

Asia Forecast to Increase Share of Global Air Cargo Market

Asia will continue to lead the world in average annual air cargo growth, with domestic China and intra–East Asia and Oceania markets expanding 5.8% and 4.9% per year, respectively. The East Asia–North America and Europe–East Asia markets will grow slightly faster than the world average.

East Asia markets will continue to lead industry growth

Global Freighter Fleet to Grow More Than 60% to 3,260 Over the Next Two Decades

A combination of 4.0% annual average traffic growth, measured in tonne-kilometers, and a proven need for dedicated freighter capacity means the freighter fleet will grow by more than 60% over the next two decades. By 2039, 2,430 freighters are forecast to be delivered, with approximately half replacing retiring airplanes and the remainder needed to meet projected traffic growth. More than one-third of these deliveries will be new widebody cargo airplanes; nearly two-thirds of the deliveries will be conversions from passenger airplanes.

2,430 freighters required for growth and replacement

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